Westminster station in London

Significant increase in visa minimum wage to be introduced in 2024.

The Home Secretary has announced major changes to the UK visa system from Spring 2024. These changes are part of a 5-point plan which aims to see legal immigration to the UK reduced following a record-breaking year for immigration in 2022, which saw a net migration of over 750,000 immigrants coming to the UK. 

The changes coming into effect in 2024 include: 

  • The minimum salary for foreign skilled workers will be raised from £26,200 to £38,700 (though the health and care sector will be exempt).
  • The minimum income requirement for a spouse or family visa will be raised from £18,600 to £38,700.
  • Care workers will not be allowed to bring any dependents to the UK, and care firms will be required to be registered with the Care Quality Commission to sponsor visas.
  • The Shortage Occupation List will be reformed and the current 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations will be abolished.
  • The rules on students bringing family members to the UK will be tightened, plus the Migration Advisory Committee will be commissioned to carry out a full review of the graduate visa route.

Downing Street said the new plan aimed to deliver the biggest reduction in net migration on record with the changes in the regulations set to mean that over 300,000 of the estimated 1.2 million people who moved to the UK in 2022 would now be unable to do so.

Further details will be revealed when the government publishes amended Immigration Rules and policy guidance but this may not happen until March 2024.

In the meantime, UK employers will need to factor these increases into future recruitment strategies– particularly where they are heavily reliant on lower-paid non-British/Irish workers to meet their talent needs. Affected businesses should consider responding to any calls for evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee over the coming months, particularly in relation to the new Immigration Salary List and the graduate visa route.

All of this comes alongside significant increases in visa costs, most of which took effect in October just gone but with a further hike for the Immigration Health Surcharge from 16 January 2024 (at the earliest) meaning that, alongside hefty application fees and the Immigration Skills Charge, sponsors or applicants will have to pay £1,035 per year in most cases (up from £624) and £776 per year (up from £470) for under-18s dependants and students. The Immigration Health Surcharge is payable in one amount at the time of application for each year of the visa being applied for i.e. £1,035 x 3 = £3,105 for a 3-year visa.  

Where possible, employers should consider filing visa applications before the increases take effect in January 2024 to try and make the most of the lower prices. Alternatively, visa costs (apart from the Immigration Skills Charge) can be passed on to sponsored employees and many employers also put in place claw-back agreements to recoup a proportion of their costs should the employee voluntarily leave their sponsored role earlier than anticipated. However, recruitment can be extremely competitive, so it is worth weighing up the risks of turning away sought-after applicants, especially for those who require highly skilled workers against the cost of any potential savings. 

If you have any questions about what the increase in minimum wage means for your visa or your company, please get in touch with us, we’d be happy to help you access your options and break the changes down for you.

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